The Husband of One Wife -- By: Robert L. Saucy

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 131:523 (Jul 1974)
Article: The Husband of One Wife
Author: Robert L. Saucy


The Husband of One Wife

Robert L. Saucy

[Robert L. Saucy, Professor of Systematic Theology, Talbot Theological Seminary, La Mirada, California.]

The question of the meaning of the qualification laid down by the apostle Paul regarding the elder’s marriage relationship is impossible to answer simply from the words involved. Literally the Greek words are simply “a one woman man” or “a one wife man.” Lenski translates them as “one wife’s husband.”1 Whether this means one at a time or one during a lifetime depends completely on other considerations. Even the question of the meaning of “one at a time” depends on one’s view of divorce as to whether a divorced man who has remarried is considered to be “one wife’s husband.” Since the phrase, “one woman man” is ambiguous in itself it is necessary to seek its meaning with the help of the general biblical teaching on marriage which is pertinent to this question.

Remarriage after the Death of a Wife

Is a man the husband of one wife if he marries after the death of his wife? Several facts militate against the view that such a remarriage is disqualifying.

The Prominence of This Qualification

In both lists of qualifications for elders this qualification stands second occurring immediately after the demand for blamelessness or irreproachability. This suggests that the first thing that detracted from this general character of blamelessness and the first thing that

one was to take note of was whether the individual stood in relation of marriage to more than one person. Fairbairn comments on the position of prominence given to this qualification, “Now, supposing this latter alternative had respect merely to the contracting of a second marriage after the death of a first wife, is the qualification one that, in the circumstances, we could imagine to have been so prominently exhibited, and so stringently imposed?”2 The answer to Fairbairn’s query would appear to be negative. There is no hindrance placed upon remarriage either in the Old Testament or the New Testament. So also among the Greeks and Romans there was never any stigma attached to remarriage after the death of the first spouse.

It is entirely improbable therefore that such a restriction is here placed in such a brief statement without a note of explanation and in such a prominent place, and even extended to deacons whose work did not concern the highest type of spiritual leadership.

The Scriptures nowhere forbid or even suggest as morally questionable remarriage after the d...

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